True Horsemanship is a dynamic blend of relating. It is not a static process, nor is it one-sided. As I was visiting with a friend yesterday we were discussing a session that we shared with her horse. I visit with her and her horse about once a month to offer a changing perspective as they move into advancing their relationship. This follow up conversation is important.
I shared with my friend that I thought she was ready for more complex layers of ideas, or as I sometimes say “tying the end’s together “. That said, I wanted confirmation that it was understood and relatable. “ I said, “I think I know you, but I don’t know I know you. “ It’s no different with our horses.
Do we really know what our horses are ready for?
In my experience with ‘raising Grace’, I have let the pendulum of understanding swing wide and far from the ways I would start colts in the past. My main intention this time was to listen and understand. That may seem simple. And in many ways it is. But, simple does not always mean easy. I had to get out of my head. And truly observe the horse, without preconceptions.
Here’s the thing—Horses don’t think like we do.
How do I get confirmation without verbal communication? As I said, I could ask my friend if she understood and was ready for moving into more complexity. How can I ask my young horse this?
The answer lies in resistance. Most people (and myself years ago) resist resistance. No one wants war, chaos, or separation. As I said in my book, Perfect Practice:
“ I knew that I wanted a feeling of peace. But I was still of the mind-set that I had to fight to get it.”
I had to break this mindset in life, and with horses. The two are the same for me. Therefor I had to see the usefulness of resistance. I had to change the way I saw it. Rather than fear it, I actually had to embrace it.
Coming up against resistance creates a line in the sand, that I can use as my dynamic map to navigate forward.
I sat in on an inspiring online classroom last week with one of the most intuitive and horse-educated people I have ever met. Carolyn Resnick offers in-depth studies of the horse-human dynamic. Her insights are none short of mind blowing. And I really mean this literally.
I pride myself as a student of the horse and have been dedicated for 40 years in this study. Carolyn Resnick, in one hour, popped a bubble that had been surrounding my awareness. She brought me out from behind the membrane of my belief. I received a wake-up call.
Carolyn is a dear friend of mine. And we speak regularly about all things life related. The bulk of which for us is about horses. She has been a great friend, always full of stories and insights. As I began moving through the stages with my horse Grace, Carolyn would lay out bread crumbs of wisdom. But because we are friends and not necessarily professionally related it was always with great tact. Carolyn would mention…
“I want a gas pedal on a horse. ”
I knew this was something I did not have with Grace. It was getting better, but it was my weak link. In Carolyn’s class she said, “Most people don’t want to look at this because they don’t want to screw up the bond they have with their horse”. I knew in that moment I was in the front row of that lineup.
I’ve never felt more connected with a horse as I am now, with Grace. And I realize that this is greatly because of my willingness to listen and observe in a much deeper way than I ever have before. But what easily began to develop was the dependency on that bond. This was intellectual. This is where I started to implement a human psychology and lose the true element of the bond with the horse.
As Carolyn pointed out in her class, a bond, or any of what she calls “The code of ethics” is not complete unless all elements are present. I knew exactly what she was talking about because this I understand in my spiritual work of self-realization.
I cannot have a foot in each world and be truly realized. This is the process that takes time and understanding, patience and wisdom. And it’s no different with my horse.
I was holding back and micromanaging the bond. After the class with Carolyn, I went out to see about that gas pedal on my horse. It was a bit of a stretch for Grace to rise to the occasion. Yet she did so in great fashion. We simply, as Tom Dorrance would put it, “Pushed the wheelbarrow over the speedbump.“ I turned up my request, but I did it in a way of retaining the bond.
This is where my daily mantra “Nothing leaves its Source“ really shines through. I remained connected with Grace, without pushing my agenda, yet I set up an environment that offered us a greater opportunity.
My teacher would say “Accept defeat to gain success.“
For a bond to be real and true we can’t be worried that it is going to be lost through advancement. This is a fear-based mentality. I think this is a huge element in interpersonal work. And of course, all of my work with my horse is interpersonal.
Instead of trying to micromanage our bond, I trusted the bond was strong.
Sure enough, because my request came from faith not fear Grace was able to get past the resistance of the lope. I left that day with Grace pondering the simple suggestion of loping. She came right up against it. And then, I nudged her past that point of resistance. And left her to consider her success.
Two days later I came back to ask again. Grace showed up with interest. Even enthusiasm. She Not only loped, but actually moved as if some non-phenomenal dam had broke and she was free. She ran, whinnied and jumped. But I knew that this was not in resistance, rather in release of the resistance.
There is a great difference, but not always easily defined. After running full throttle for a few laps, the most beautiful transitions appeared. She settled right in to her own cadence. And I couldn’t have been more proud of her. I was so happy that she found that she could.
And I will say this, in no way was our bond compromised. In fact, it was just the opposite. Everything we did after that felt more real because I had stopped micromanaging the bond.
After this experience, I called Carolyn Resnick. And I said “I think I owe you my life.“ She was so happy to hear about the change. And later I contemplated whether I waited too long or if I should have done this sooner? I realized it was perfect.
The timing of Grace’s maturation level, both physically and mentally set up a great parameter for success. And as usual, I think I learned even more than she did.
This morning I woke to find a beautiful message from my friend, Carolyn Resnick. And she said that she loved that I waited for Grace to move out. I smiled, because as usual, Carolyn and I display one heart and one mind.
Because that heart and mind comes from the horse. And as we often mention the horse is the perfect symbol for life. LIFE is the great guru. And this lesson taught me far more than horsemanship.